UPDATE: An independent, third-party investigation into the treatment of animals in the filming of A Dog's Purpose concluded that an edited video given to the gossip site TMZ mischaracterized the events on the set.
According to The American Humane Association, "the findings of the independent investigation confirm that no animals were harmed in those scenes and numerous preventative safety measures were in place." Read the full report online now.
PETA has called for a boycott of the film A Dog's Purpose after a video surfaced on TMZ Wednesday showing a trainer apparently forcing a German Shepherd into turbulent waters.
In the video, which has since gone viral, the dog clawed at the pool's edge and tried to run away while an animal trainer tried to force the animal into the rushing water. Off-camera, someone laughed at the dog's struggle. "You just got to throw him in," the person said.
TMZ reported the scene was shot in Winnipeg, Canada, in November 2015.
Once video was made public, PETA asked dog lovers to boycott the film "to send the message that dogs and other animals should be treated humanely, not as movie props." After reviewing the footage, Lisa Lange, PETA's senior vice president, added, "This movie is directed towards those who love dogs and, clearly, this is not a dog's purpose."
The animal-rights group is targeting a specific animal supplier: Birds & Animals Unlimited.
Amblin Entertainment and Universal Pictures issued a new joint statement Thursday evening. "Because Amblin's review into the edited video released yesterday is still ongoing, distributor Universal Pictures has decided it is in the best interest of A Dog's Purpose to cancel this weekend's premiere and press junket. Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans," the statement read. "Since the emergence of the footage, Amblin has engaged with many associated with the production of the film, including safety personnel, trainers and stunt coordinators as part of their in-depth review. While we are all disheartened by the appearance of an animal in distress, everyone has assured us that Hercules the German Shepherd was not harmed throughout the filmmaking."
"We continue to support this film, are incredibly proud of it and will release it for audiences nationwide next Friday."
Based on W. Bruce Cameron's bestselling novel of the same, the movie tells the story of a dog who realizes the meaning of life after being re-incarnated, which brings him into the lives of many owners. The movie stars Pooch Hall, Peggy Lipton, Britt Robertson and Dennis Quaid.
Josh Gad, who voices a dog in the film, issued his own statement via Twitter Wednesday.
Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures
"A few months ago, I was approached to lend my voice to the film A Dog's Purpose. As I sat in a dark screening room, I was beyond touched and moved by what I saw...a movie that captures the beauty and pain of loving a pet. I signed on for a film that truly stands out as one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen," Gad began. "Today, however, I saw a disturbing video that appears to show a scared German Shepherd being forced to perform a stunt on the set of this film. While I do not know all the details and cannot speak to the level of care and caution that went into this moment (as I was never on set for the making of this film), I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will."
"As a proud dog owner and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA," the 35-year-old actor said, "I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation."
The film's director, Lasse Hallström, was equally appalled.
"I am very disturbed by the video released today from the set of my film A Dog's Purpose," he tweeted. "I did not witness these actions. We were all committed to providing a loving and safe environment for all the animals in the film. I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished."
Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures
Six hours later, Hallström returned to Twitter to reiterate his earlier comments. "I have been a lifelong animal lover and A Dog's Purpose is my third film about dogs," the director, 70, tweeted. "The animals' safety was of utmost priority for both myself and everyone on the set."
The American Humane Association, which monitored the action on set, was also "disturbed" after reviewing the footage. "When the dog showed signs of resistance to jumping in the water, the scene should have been stopped," the organization told E! News in a statement. "We are placing the safety representative who was on the set on administrative leave immediately and are bringing in an independent third party to conduct an investigation into this matter."
Gavin Polone, who produced the film, is a longtime animal rights activist. Speaking to Deadline Wednesday, he too was "horrified" by the video. "The first thing I asked was, 'Is the dog OK?' He's fine. But if I had seen that, I would have stopped it in a minute. People have to be held responsible for this. It was someone's job to watch out for this kind of thing. Why didn't they?"
Polone, who estimated he was on the first unit about 70 percent of the time, added that he "never saw, in any way, the animal handlers stressing out the animal. But I wasn't there for the second unit. If I had been, I would have stopped it. All I can say is that I hope that bringing this out leads to better treatment of animals. I know the studio is outraged and investigating this."
(E! and Universal Pictures are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)
Originally published Jan. 19, 2017 at 7:25 a.m. PST